If you want to draw on your computer, you can always use your mouse. But if you want to really draw, you can upgrade to a drawing tablet (also known as graphics tablets). Here is one below. It is an entry level drawing tablet, has a pressure-sensitive pen that does not require batteries, and the actual tablet to draw on, looks like an over-sized laptop touchpad. Instead of your fingers, you use the pen to move the pointer on your screen.
In this post we are using the Huion Inspiroy 430P, an entry-level drawing tablet that is supported on Ubuntu. There is mainline support in the Linux kernel for this tablet since 2015, therefore the following should work with Ubuntu 16.04 or newer. They have been tested on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. It is suggested to use a recent version of Ubuntu as there is drawing tablet support in the system settings.
Setting up the the Huion 430P on Ubuntu 20.04
Just connect the drawing tablet to a USB port on your computer. That’s it. Just to make sure, run the following. If you do not get that, write a comment.
$ xsetwacom --list devices HUION Huion Tablet Pen stylus id: 15 type: STYLUS HUION Huion Tablet Pad pad id: 16 type: PAD $
Configuring the Huion 430P on Ubuntu 20.04
There are settings in GNOME Shell to configure a drawing tablet. There is no specific configuration for the Huion 430P but there are for other Huion models. It is easy to add support for the 430P and I have some configuration. For now, we accept the default setup. If we want to perform specific configuration, we can always use the
You can use the drawing tablet as a mouse. The small area of the drawing tablet (4.3″ diagonally) is mapped directly to your full display. That is, unlike a mouse where you can lift it to move the pointer further away, on a tablet instead pointer is mapped directly to the full display. Which means that a small 4.3″ active tablet area might be too dense/sensitive for your FullHD or 4K display. Each application like GIMP, Inkscape and Blender have support to configure input devices like drawing tablets. You can configure in them whether you want to map the active area to the whole screen, or the window’s drawing area.
We have installed GIMP 2.10 (snap package) and we have started drawing with the Brush tool. We use the default settings and switched the Dynamics to Pressure Size. This meas that the pen, which detects the pressure, should draw a line that has a variable size, depending on the pressure. But it does not. The first line has been drawn with the mouse, and the second with the drawing tablet. At this stage, the drawing tablet is just smoother than the mouse. We need to properly configure the drawing tablet.
In the above screenshot there is a tab called Device Status. It looks like the following. It only shows the Core Pointer and has not information about the drawing tablet. This means that the drawing tablet is not configured. It also means that the drawing tablet will probably work, but only as a mouse. The pressure sensitivity of the stylus will not be taken into account when we draw.
Let’s look into Edit → Input Settings in GIMP to activate the drawing tablet. There are two input devices for the Huion tablet, one for the Pad and one for the Stylus. By default, their Mode was both Disabled. In the following, I switched them to Screen, as shown below. It says the the X axis has no curve, meaning that this drawing tablet has no tilt support. In addition, we have not configured yet any of the buttons on the drawing tablet. Note that both the stylus and the pad have buttons. We just want to draw already!
Let’s see again the Device Status tab in GIMP. There are entries for the Tab and the Pen (Stylus). Ignore for now the Tab settings (in red). We have the Core Pointer (Mouse) and the Pen, both with the exact same drawing settings.
It is time to draw again, with the mouse and then the pen, and compare. The pen is smoother, and evidently the line understands the pressure. The thickness depends on the pressure we exert to the pen!
Drawing with the pen
We are going to draw with the pen using the Paintbrush tool. And we are going to experiment with the Dynamics option of the Paintbrush tool. And here is the most important tip of the day:
When you change the settings of a tool in the GIMP with the mouse, you are changing the mouse settings for this tool. You need to use the pen to change the pen settings!
Another tool is the MyPaint Brush. It has many types of brushes. The following screenshot shows about half of them.
Apart from using the drawing tablet in GIMP, you can also use it in Inkscape and Blender. It is especially useful in Grease Pencil in Blender.
A drawing tablet is a big upgrade to drawing on your Ubuntu desktop.You can start off with a Huion drawing tablet such as the Huion 430P. It is available from Aliexpress at around €20 from the official Huion Store.
The Huion 430P drawing tablet is supported in Linux thanks to the effort of the DIGImend project. They have done an amazing work adding Linux support to various brands to drawing tablets.
If you end up loving your drawing tablet, please consider donating to the maintainer of the DIGImend project, Nikolai Kondrashov, on Patreon, on Liberapay, or just buy him a coffee.